‘Batman’ TV show creator Lorenzo Semple Jr. dies at 91
Click through the gallery for a look back at the actors who have donned Batman's iconic cape and cowl over the years.Link
In his first screen appearance, Batman was played by Lewis Wilson. "Batman," a 15-chapter serial released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures, pit Wilson's Batman and Douglas Croft's Robin against Japanese spymaster Dr. Daka during World War II. (Columbia Pictures / Getty Images)Link
Columbia released another 15-chapter serial, "Batman and Robin," in 1949. In this version, Robert Lowery played Batman and Johnny Duncan played Robin. (Columbia Pictures / Getty Images)Link
For many Batfans, Adam West was the iconic Caped Crusader. West and Robin actor Burt Ward played the crimefighting duo in "Batman," a television series that ran from 1966 to 1968. The show, which earned three Emmy nominations, also spawned a movie, marking the first time the DC hero got his own feature-length film. (20th Century Fox)Link
After more than two decades off the big screen, Tim Burton reimagined the DC hero in 1989's "Batman," starring Michael Keaton. The movie, which won an Oscar for art direction, famously starred Jack Nicholson as the villainous Joker. Keaton reprised the role in 1992's "Batman Returns," starring opposite Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman. (Warner Bros.)Link
In 1995, director Joel Schumacher offered up a campier take on the hero in "Batman Forever." Val Kilmer played Batman, Chris O'Donnell played Robin and Jim Carrey played the Riddler -- one of many villains the hero faces off against in the film. (Warner Bros.)Link
Two years later, George Clooney donned the batsuit in Schumacher's 1997 follow-up "Batman & Robin." O'Donnell reprised his role as Robin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger played the nefarious Mr. Freeze. (Warner Bros.)Link
In 2005, Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise with "Batman Begins," starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and his cape-wearing alter-ego. Bale reprised the role in 2008's "The Dark Knight," opposite Heath Ledger's Joker, and 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises." The critically acclaimed films were box-office juggernauts. (Warner Bros.)Link
Ben Affleck will play Batman opposite Henry Cavill's Superman in the upcoming "Man of Steel" sequel "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," slated to hit theaters in 2016. (Warner Bros.)Link
Lorenzo Semple Jr., creator of the classic Adam West-starring “Batman” television series, has died.
The prolific screenwriter served as scribe for scores of films and TV series, including Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 “King Kong,” the Warren Beatty-starring thriller “The Parallax View,” Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor,” the 1980 cult darling “Flash Gordon” and the James Bond movie “Never Say Never Again,” among other projects.
Semple died Friday at his home in Brentwood of natural causes. Born March 27, 1923, Semple celebrated his 91st birthday Thursday. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Joyce; daughters Maria and Johanna; son Lorenzo; and six grandchildren.
In a 2010 interview with Hero Complex contributor Susan King, Semple recalled being approached by producer William Dozier to develop an ABC television series based on the “Batman” comic book.
“I got a cable from Bill to meet him in Madrid,” Semple said. “I flew to Madrid to meet him at the Ritz, and he pulled out of his pocket this copy of this comic book ‘Batman.’ I said, ‘It sounds terrific… Let’s do it.'”
He wrote the show’s first four episodes and served as the series’ executive story editor for the rest of its run, which starred West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin. Credited for the colorful comic-book-inspired “Bam!” and “Pow!” graphics in the show’s fight scenes, Semple said he knew from the start that he wanted “Batman” to be campy fun.
“When he showed me the book I said, ‘Bill, I know how to do it. Go back to L.A.,'” he recalled. “We had no discussion and had no discussion with the network at all. I wrote the script and they loved it. We had to make one trip to New York to explain it to ABC. They liked it, but they were startled by it because it wasn’t like anything else. They shot it without a pilot and scheduled it without a pilot. It started off as a rocket and naturally it ran out of steam because it was like a one-trick pony.”
More recently, Semple teamed up with former producer Marcia Nasatir (“The Big Chill,” “Vertical Limit”) for a movie review YouTube series titled “Reel Geezers.” The duo of then-octogenarian critics served up risque reviews on the movies and became a bit of a Hollywood sensation.
Despite his passion for the industry, Semple tried to keep movies, and his work, in perspective.
“No one’s vote has ever been changed by a movie,” he said. “That’s why all the Iraq war movies failed. People who were against the war already knew it and people who supported the war didn’t want to see them. Movies are immediate. No screenwriter has ever been discovered after their death the way painters or novelists have been.
“If you don’t like a movie right away, it’s no good.”
Click through the image gallery at the top of the post for a look at the actors who have brought Batman to the screen.
[For the record, March 28, 6 p.m.: A previous version of this post misstated the year in which Semple was born.]
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